The Dolphin Is Still Running
By Lenore Dolphin
When the male runners assembled at LaBranch Street on January 16, 2000,
for the start of the 28th annual Houston Marathon, Dr. Bob Dolphin, a retired
entomologist from Renton (and Yakima), was there to run his 250th marathon.
Another milestone for this 70-year-old great-grandfather of six who ran
his first marathon at the age of 51!
Four years ago Bob was featured on the cover of the March 1996 Northwest
Runner Magazine with an article inside that was titled, "The Dolphin that
Runs" and sub-titled, "Over 175 marathons in 15 years".
Well, the Dolphin is still running, and the totals have changed to "Over
250 marathons in 19 years."
Listed in that article were five of Bob's goals for the future
GOAL (1) - Running the Berlin and London Marathons
GOAL (4) - Push on to 200 marathons
He took care of #4 and half of #1 when he ran his 200th marathon in London,
England, on April 13, 1997.
Mike Dutton, a 29-year old Seattle-area runner, accompanied Bob as they
ran this special marathon together.
Most of the 29,000 participants were there to promote their favorite charity,
and wore costumes, funny hats, and wigs to gain attention as they solicited
funds from the bystanders.
Marathon #200 was memorable as they ran through this historical city - from
the park near Greenwich, along the Thames River, across the Tower Bridge,
to the Tower of London, past Buckingham Palace, and to the finish line near
Two days after the London Marathon, Bob became the first American member
of the 100 MARATHON CLUB, a predominantly European group of runners who have
completed 100 or more 26.2 marathons.
GOAL (3) - Join the 50 States and D.C. Club
When Jim Boyd, a Lakeside, CA, member of this club read in the Northwest
Runner Magazine that Bob wanted to join, he called to tell him that having
run over 100 marathons made him eligible and that his membership was being
He now proudly wears his "50 States & D.C." singlet in every marathon, and
meets fellow club members at every race.
Most recently, he chose the Houston Marathon for the celebration of the
running of his 250th marathon in order to be there for fellow 50 States & D.C. member,
Rick Worley from Kingwood, TX, who was running his 200th marathon in 159 consecutive
weekends. These two awesome runners had met at the September 1997 Skagit Flats
Marathon in Burlington, early into Rick's "marathon of marathons".
His verifiable marathon (26.2 miles) record was accomplished in 1,111 days,
and will put him in the Guiness Book of World Records.
Members of the 50 States & D.C. Club came from all over the world to honor
Rick for this outstanding achievement.
GOAL (5) - Get to age 70 as fast as he can when Mel Preedy, a tough
(but friendly) competitor from Ravensdale, turns 65!
At the last King Day Classic Marathon in Tacoma, as Bob slyly passed Mel,
he waved to him and said, "Hi, Mel." Runners can always tell where Mel is
by the sound of his breathing. However, a few miles further into that race,
he ran "quietly," waved at Bob as he passed him, returned the "Hi," and went
on to come in ahead of Bob.
As of last October 4th, Mel can return to his "normal breathing" on a regular
basis. Bob's #5 goal has been met! Age 70 brings him to a new competitive age
division and so far the count is seven first places in seven marathons. He
says it's fun to be the "youngest kid" in a new group!
GOAL (2) - Finish the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in 1996 or 1997.
This rigorous race starts at Squaw Valley (near Truckee), and ends at Placer
High School in Auburn, CA. Bob competed in 1996 and 1997 (as well as in 1994),
and probably has run a combined total of 100 miles. Unfortunately, it's necessary
to run the 100 miles consecutively in one 30-hour period, so goal #2 will
Of his 250 marathons, 45 have been successful completions of 31-101 mile
ultra-marathons - including five WSU lOOK races in Pullman, six Falls to Gasworks
(Snoqualmie to Seattle), three Autumn Leaves 50 races in Oregon, Wenatchee's
Badger Mountain Bean Run, Portland's Mudder Fell Six-Hour Run, Spokane's Let's
Climb a Mountain and Centennial Trail Run, the White River 50 Mile Run, and
many Pacific Rim 24-Hour Runs in Longview.
In the future he plans to continue participating in Fred Willet's Longview
Run, but will concentrate his major efforts on the 26.2 mile marathons.
Bob has a high regard for the outstanding 1999 ultra-running accomplishments
of two of his running friends.
Karl Jensen, 49, from Richmond, B.C., was the first Canadian to successfully
complete the Last Great Race of six specified 100-mile trail runs in the
United States in one year.
Jeff Hagen, 52, from Yakima broke the national record for men aged 50-54,
by running 216.41 miles at the Texas A&M 48 Hour Run.
He treasures the autographed posters Khalid Khannouchi sent him of his most
recent Chicago Marathon world-record-setting victory; posters of the October
24, 1999 race, which he ran in 2:05:42!!
The cover of the January/February 2000 Running Times Magazine shows the
DOLPHIN ring on Khalid's right hand, the good luck charm he wears in every
Khalid and his wife Sandra (his coach) feel that dolphins are special, and
Bob feels privileged to have met them at the Boston Marathon expo in April
of 1999, bringing a "running Dolphin" into their lives.
During the 19 years of running 250 marathons, there are certain races that
are more memorable than others.
His first marathon was the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, MO, on
Labor Day of 1981, and #100 was the same marathon on Labor Day, exactly 10
His "personal best" was accomplished at the age of 58, when he ran the 1988
Emerald City Marathon in Seattle in a time of 3:00:13.
Marathon #125 was the Tri-Cities Marathon in Richland, where he politely
stepped aside to let a woman runner cross the finish line ahead of him. She
turned out to be the overall first-place female finisher, and the announcer
didn't even know Bob existed. No more "Mr. Nice Guy" in future races!
His 150th marathon was in Seattle, at Myrtle Edwards Park, where friends and
family gathered at the finish line with balloons and a huge banner. But our
hero's stomach was upset, and he headed for the bushes. He recovered in time
to appreciate the efforts, and to share his special carrot cake with other
runners and the SRI Chinmoy group.
There's something "spooky" about marathon #215. By chance, Jerome Ellison,
race director for the Lost Soles Marathon in Talent, OR, gave Bob bib #215
for his 215th marathon, that he ran on 2-15 in 1998!
Every five years the Skagit Flats Marathon in September holds special meaning.
He and his good friend, marathon achiever Bruce Katter from Edmonds, are in
the same age group for 3« weeks as Bruce moves in and Bob moves out of a 5-year
bracket. It's getting easier for Bruce to beat him now.
Bob Green's 1999 Christmas Marathon, south of Olympia, was memorable because
it was the first race in 20 years of running where a woman was the overall
winner. Laura Nelson, 34, of Bend, OR, was #1 in a time of 2:52:55.
The 1995 Trails End Marathon is one that he'd rather forget. His 83-year-old
brother-in-law, Walt Kahle, from Oregon City, OR, had come for the first time
to see Bob run a marathon. At 6:30 the morning of the race, Walt had a stroke,
so Bob spent his pre-marathon time at the Seaside Hospital, and arrived at
the starting line just in time for the 9:00 a.m. start. (Walt recovered enough
to try again in 1996, when he promised not to repeat another emergency hospital
Bob's favorite marathon is still the October Royal Victoria Marathon in Victoria,
B.C. He has also participated in the Vancouver, Penticton, and Calgary Marathons
His longest streak of 16 consecutive marathons is the Seattle Marathon, followed
by 15 consecutive Capital City Marathons, and 15 consecutive Portland Marathons.
He has finished seven Boston Marathon, two New York City Marathons, and
marathons in 14 different states.
Many runners admire Bob's goals and accomplishments and he, in turn, admires
the perseverance and "will to return to running" of five of his friends who
share one thing. Lary Webster, Frank Fleetham, Tony Sagare, Frank Purdy, and
Pat Miller are runners who have recovered from heart surgery and are an inspiration
to others in their valiant recovery efforts.
Twenty years ago Bob's goal was to attain physical fitness by adding running
to his lifestyle. In achieving this goal he has added many friendships and
great memories of good times.
As he looks to the future, he plans to continue running 18 marathons and ultras
per year. He wants to continue to be competitive in his age group, and hopes
to run a 3:50 marathon soon to qualify for Boston again.
He plans to concentrate on adding more "states", and hopes to run the marathon
that's the closest to T'u'bingen, Germany - and, incidentally, visit a nephew
who lives there.
Bob will continue with his "Dolphin Method of Training": to run a race
every weekend, if possible, do marathons when they're available, rest and
walk in between, and run several weekly 5-mile training runs at a nine minute
pace when the races are half-marathon length or shorter. Minor injuries from
time to time influence his training schedule, and he replaces running with
brisk 1-2 hour walks. When the male runners assembled at LaBranch Street in
Houston, TX, on January 16th, the female runners gathered at nearby Crawford
They all soon merged, and Bob Dolphin, the 70-year-old runner from Renton,
WA, completed his exciting 250th marathon in a time of 4:16:08
The Dolphin is still running and plans to continue this way of life for
many years to come.